3 Facts About How We Consumed Music in 2017

January 12, 2018

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Industries | Media & Entertainment

Nielsen has released its “2017 Year-End Music Report” [download page] for the US, which contains a bevy of statistics on music consumption, live music, and chart-topping tracks and albums. Here are 3 takeaways on the US’ consumption of recorded music, according to the study.

1. Total Music Consumption Increased Again, Driven by Streaming

Total recorded music consumption was up by 12.5% in 2017 over 2016, per the report.

Total consumption is measured as the combination of album sales, track equivalent album (TEA) sales, and on-demand audio/video streaming equivalent albums (SEAs). TEAs refer to the sale of music downloads or singles (a TEA is equal to 10 tracks), while SEAs account for streaming services, with 1,500 SEAs equal to one album.

Streaming was the driver of increased music consumption again last year as in 2016, representing 54% of consumption in 2017. The number on-demand audio and video music streams grew by 43% to 618 billion, per the report. On-demand audio streams grew by almost three-times the rate (+58.7%) of on-demand video streams (+20.9%), and accounted for almost twice the number of streams (400.4 billion vs. 217.7 billion).

Subtract streaming from the equation and the overall trends look very different. Indeed, total album and TEA sales were down by 19.2% year-over-year in 2017, and it wasn’t just physical album sales that took a hit:

  • Digital album sales tumbled by 19.6%;
  • Physical album sales fell by 16.5%; and
  • Digital track sales dropped by 23.4%.

The lone bright spot? Vinyl, which enjoyed a 9% increase in sales (to 14.3 million), marking the 12th consecutive year of growth.

2. Physical Sales and Streaming Peak in Q4; Digital Sales in Q1

In what may be one of the only similarities between physical sales and streaming, Nielsen’s report reveals that each peak during the fourth quarter.

That’s particularly the case for physical CDs and vinyl LPs, which saw about one-third of their sales occur during Q4 (32.3% and 34.7%, respectively).

Streaming is more evenly spread, but tends to grow throughout the year, peaking in Q4 (28.2% of on-demand audio streams and 28.6% of on-demand video streams).

By contrast, digital album downloads are highest in Q1 (26.7% share), as are digital song downloads (28.6% share). Nielsen attributes this to post-holiday gift card redemptions occurring during the first quarter of the year.

3. Rock Leads in Album Sales, R&B Dominates Streaming

Nielsen’s report reveals that Americans music consume different genres of music in quite different ways.

Overall, R&B/Hip-Hop is the leading genre, representing about one-quarter (24.5%) of total music consumption in 2017. Rock (20.8%) is next, followed by Pop (12.7%), Country (7.7%) and Latin (5.9%).

But while R&B/Hip-Hop led overall last year, that was entirely due to its dominance in the streaming area. Indeed, the genre represented an outsized 29.1% share of on-demand music streams, including 30.4% of on-demand audio streams and 26.7% of on-demand video streams.

By contrast, Rock dominates album sales. For the year, Rock accounted for more than one-third (34.6%) of total album sales, more than twice the share for R&B/Hip-Hop (14.6%). That was especially the case for physical album sales, where Rock’s share was almost three times higher than that of R&B/Hip-Hop (36.8% and 12.8%, respectively). In fact, there were more Country physical album sales (13.1% share) than R&B/Hip-Hop physical album sales last year.

Rock also led in digital album sales, with 31.3% share.

There was more parity in digital song sales, with the top 3 genres well-matched: R&B/Hip-Hop (20.8% share); Rock (20.7%); and Pop (19.7%).

Put another way, streaming accounted for 69% share of R&B/Hip-Hop music consumption last year, well above the 54% industry average. By contrast, while streaming was the largest Rock format, it only occupied 40% of Rock consumption.

The full report is available for download here.

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